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The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid/The Golden Apple/Leviathan (Illuminatus! #1-3)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  12,905 Ratings  ·  722 Reviews
Filled with sex and violence, in and out of time and space, the three books of The Illuminatus are only partly works of the imagination. They tackle all the coverups of our time from who really shot the Kennedys to why there's a pyramid on a one-dollar bill.
Paperback, 1st, 829 pages
Published 1975 by Dell Publishing Co. (NYC)
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Michael Satanism as it's portrayed in the media and by the Christian church doesn't exist and has never existed. The other stuff, who knows...
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Apr 18, 2007 Seth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teenagers, fuddy-duddy geeks, SF fans
I gave this book 5 stars.
- As science fiction it would get 2
- As philosophy it would get 1 (the world-view it argues for is much better discussed in other books--some of them even by RAW)
- As humor it would get 3. Maybe 4 on a good day
- As conspiracy theory it would get 4
- As research it doesn't even rate 1
- As a good guide to things to research for yourself, it's a solid 4 (great game: open to a random page and pick 5 things to look up in a library)

But it crosses the line on two things:
J.G. Keely
A sprawling, many-faceted, satirical series, Illuminatus! is difficult to rate and more difficult to review. There are so many aspects which one could address, so many points of divergence, ideas, philosophies, and influences, but at it's heart, it's a rollicking adventure story that, despite its many political and social themes, rarely takes itself too seriously.

I can certainly say I liked it, but it's hard to say how much. Some parts were better than others, but there are many parts to be cons
Jan 25, 2008 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm re-reading this now, and felt I should clarify my position on this book, as I often list it as one of my favorites.
High Literature this is not. It is campy sci-fi, saturated with gratuitous sex scenes, psychedelia, conspiracy theories, counterculture etc. When I recommend this book, it's usually with the caveat that the authors are sort of bumbling about and finding their feet for the first 80 or so pages.

When it finally does start moving along, the reader finds his- or her-self bombarded wi
Dec 01, 2007 Danny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If James Joyce was a one-man literary IRA, then Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea are the literary Al Qaeda. As these groups can be viewed as either terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on your point of view, so it is with this book.

As is probably not ironic for a book considered to be the holy grail of conspiracy theory, it's definitely not difficult to perceive the Illuminatus Trilogy as an act of intellectual terrorism. This is not an easy book to read. Time, location, perspective, an
Jul 12, 2007 Gar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, the bury-the-needle rating on this is primarly from nostalgia and gratitude. The thing is, the book saved my soul. I say this because I read the Illuminatus! trilogy the very first thing after stumbling into reading Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in high school, as a fairly bright and moderately-creative geek, which qualities looked even more exaggerated by relative comparison to a very small class size. That's like getting injected with concentrated live-culture viruses af ...more
Elf M.
Jun 04, 2012 Elf M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Illuminatus! Trilogy saved my life.

It won't save yours.

Since first reading it at age 13 (the year it saved my life), I have dutifully re-read the entire trilogy (really, it's not that long) every five years since. But when I was 13, that was 1979: the jokes about Nixon, late 60s and early 70s rock bands, the coming of disco, the obscure neopagan nonsense that washed through every college campus in the late 1980s, bizarre alternative histories and conspiracies theories, were hilarious and fas
Mar 30, 2007 Naomi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
The authors thought they were WAY more clever and intellectual than they really were. Mostly these books were pretentious and boring and a regurgitation of themes that had been explored numerous times in numerous other places. Not to mention the fact that the whole trilogy pretends to be building up to some huge world-altering event that never actually happens. It's like the authors finally realized after 3 books that they didn't really know what they were trying to say or where they wanted the ...more
Sep 25, 2007 rachelm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As I'm having trouble summarizing this book myself, I've decided to quote the meta-review of their book which the authors wrote into the novel:

"'It's a dreadfully long monster of a book,' Wildeblood says pettishly, 'and I certainly won't have time to read it, but I'm giving it a thorough skimming. The authors are utterly incompetent--no sense of style or structure at all. It starts out as a detective story, switches to science-fiction, then goes off into the supernatural, and is full of the most
(Edit, 8/3/13: finally finished this. Review still stands.)

On p. 650 of 800 but the last 70 are just appendices and I feel like writing a review now, so . . .

I've been reading this very slowly over the course of many months, which I guess is a reflection of how little it has really engaged me. On the other hand, I feel no animosity towards it, and fully intend to finish it eventually. To my taste it is neither especially good nor especially bad; it is just a odd, underwhelming if inoffensive sor
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
What a strange, strange trilogy that I *unfortunately* was not able to finish. I was 1/4 way through "Leviathan" (the third and final book in the trilogy) before calling it quits. It got so repetitive to read and the stuff they daresay call "humor" was well, kinda boring and not original at all.

I meant to review this trilogy after I read it but it sort of just left my mind until my mom brought the book home that she borrowed from a co-worker a couple weeks ago. I looked at the cover and instantl
Be careful if you're going to pick up this book. This is not the kind of story that hands everything to you, or wraps up every element of the plot in a neat little bow. This book demands a lot of you, it moves fast, and not always in the way you expect, and you just have to keep up. Yes, there are plenty of places where you are going to have NO IDEA just what is going on, you are going to have to go back and re read passages to understand them, and you do need to read all of the appendices if yo ...more
Carolina Liechtenstein
Approaching this book like a puzzle is the best way to read it, in my opinion. It is a puzzle, linking many pieces into a loose network of organizations, individuals and leaders. It reveals the loosely linked nature of the Elite influencers at the top. Going in this book talking it lightly, I completely enjoyed it. I also learned a great deal about the Elite.
Tim Pendry

[This review is dedicated to the anarchist and occasional friend Steve Ash who sadly died last year. This book meant a great deal to him.]

Wrongly sold as science fiction, this is an anarcho-libertarian bit of mischief mashing up some serious indirect philosophy and psychology with popular cultural memes, conspiracy theory, erotica, the occult and a lot of dated political satire.

It is so deliberately occult in places as to become occasionally (and ironically) a bit pompous, much like its 'hero' H
Jul 17, 2007 Aaron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who relishes in confusion
Couldn't finish it. Didn't even finish the first book in the trilogy. Interesting. Ever-shifting in perspective like Ulysses , but Ulysses unlocalized. Instead of focusing on one person on one day in a very distinct place, it looks at a number of disparate people all over the world in places both real and imaginary, with no regard for chronology. Some fine writing in there, but the hyper-leaps from the JFK assassination to underwater battles over Atlantis to graphically-described sex rituals ( ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hippies, Discordians, Young Men
Recommended to Michael by: Steve Jackson
For me, this book was a moment of Awakening, and the changes I wrought in myself after first reading continue to reverberate today. I had been brought to it through playing the card game it inspired. A desire to Seek the Mysteries caused me to follow up on the "Bibliography" included with that game, and I picked up this book expecting a sort of "In Like Flint"-style spy thriller/parody that exploited theories of vast conspiratorial networks. What I found was an exploration of reality on various ...more
Norman LaFave
Apr 29, 2011 Norman LaFave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the strangest book I have ever read. I almost gave up a couple of times but I am glad I didn't.

The book presents every conspiracy theory known to man in a fashion that seems to defy coherent timeline and consistency. It is as if each chapter was written independently, with only the faintest of connecting threads. I often thought that I was reading someone's acid induced musings.
It wasn't until I had read well into the book that I realized there actually was a pattern to the story. It wa
Mar 29, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like this book because it takes every conspiracy theory that existed prior to 1975 and weaves them into a grand narrative of the 'haves' pulling a fast one on the 'have nots' since before the beginning of recorded human history. Also, similar to William S. Burroughs, I think you have to examine RAW's work in the context of him being such a defining force in the American underground culture. Having said this, I do have one major complaint about this work. This is one of those books that has too ...more
Geoff Gerrietts
Jul 24, 2007 Geoff Gerrietts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all my friends
I have given this book away so many times now. It's the only way I can repay the favor Jayson did me when he initially loaned it to me. This book literally changed my life, and I can only believe for the better.

Countless bizarre ideas and ideologies are brought together in a raucous, chaotic storyline spun through three volumes. Discordianism, Kabbalah, the Church of the Sub-Genius, elaborate retellings of conspiracy theory and countless other bizarre and interesting ideological landscapes get m
Feb 05, 2008 Josh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was so unbelievably aggravating to read it's hard to fully explain. There are no chapters, three gazillion characters and plots, and most of them are on acid the whole time, so it's nearly impossible to keep track of what's happening. But, there's so much information in it that everyone should know about the rich history of conspiracy theories and mythology that it's hard not to recommend it. Basically, this is a book that you want to have read, but not to actively read.
Jack Waters
Apr 30, 2010 Jack Waters rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over 800 pages (though the pages span over three books)
Who in the world are these authors?
You don't want to be caught in public holding a book that looks like this.
Not for the dogmatically sensitive.

The plot of Illuminatus! is difficult to describe, but I'll try. The offices of a magazine are bombed, supposedly by a conservative group of some sort. The editor of the magazine has disappeared without a trace. Detectives assigned to the case find out that the cause is actually m
Best book I've read all year. I can't describe it. I can only say that my reading list has quadrupled since adding sources I learned of from this book. It is ostensibly about a detective investigating a bombing, but it is actually about everything and I'm not being hyperbolic. I will recommend it to every smart person I know. It blew my mind so hard. They have me investigating Buddhism, magick, negative-interest currencies, Discordianism, Gestalt therapy, game theory, and so so much more. It con ...more
Feb 07, 2008 cory rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who smoke too much weed
conspiracy theorists burned this book while everyone else rejoiced. at one point the devil emerges on LSD (no Lake Shore Drive) at an apartment in the form of billy graham. yeah right! and there are talking dolphins. now go back in read those words in a random order, interjecting any three letter acronym you can think of, and piece together what they might try to mean and effectively 5+5+4=5 and you'll know what i mean
j. ergo
Absolutely perfect so far. A mix of Pynchon on meth w/ a deadline and a couple of really smart guys on meth w/ a deadline. Finished Eye in the Diamond about a month ago and can only read two novels at the same time so am 2/3's of the way thru Gravity's Rainbow and must kill it before resuming Illuminatus!.
Sandy Bookwitch
Jan 31, 2013 Sandy Bookwitch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stream of consciousness style from hell! More decipherable than Finnegan's Wake, but how much does that really say?? Keeps switching tense, point-of-view, moves between first person perspective of multiple and conflicting characters over space and time. A real mind fuck and I'm only about 100 pages in... Still trying though. Fascinating actual historical stuff and actual conspiracy theory quoted documentation dating back centuries. The first fictional work, of which I'm aware any way, to tackle ...more
Oct 23, 2007 Donald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Free Thinkers Everywhere
The "Illuminatus" trilogy is marvelous, compelling and often hilarious. Authors Shea and Wilson weave a complex, meandering tale around the Illuminati, a group that even establishment historians acknowledge existed. The difference here is that, like many conspiracy theorists, the authors propose that the Illuminati never disbanded and continue to run the world behind the scenes.

Reading author Robert Anton Wilson's susequent works, some inspired by his friendship with LSD guru and rumored CIA ope
Oct 02, 2010 Noble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a nutshell: sex, drugs, and conspiracies.

Ridiculously surreal, jumping from one POV to another often and without warning (and sometimes mid-sentence, I think - it's been a while), as well as bouncing between pre-history and the near future and various points in between. Not even the characters really know who/where/when they are, half the time. Most of it seems like abject silliness, until you come across something, such as a prediction or comment about government and/or society, that makes j
Jan 27, 2012 Alexandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the wittiest book i have had the pleasure to read, from start to finish. It makes you lol, not an internet lol but a real lol, vocal chords and and lots of "hehehehe Hagbard you bugger, your funny" kinda laugh.

I have read it twice now so am very familiar with the book, which really helped upon the second reading. It is a very long book, and if your taking your time reading it then you may forget a few things, like why Saul ended up in that weird hospital, the first time i read it i comp
Apr 16, 2011 Darth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why cant I pick zero stars? This was less entertaining than the cereal box - and I havent eaten cereal since I was 12...

From the cover and the write-ups on this, I thought this would be right up my alley - quirky / funny / entertaining / etc...

After 100 pages I stopped reading - that may not mean much if you dont know me, but I NEVER stop reading. Same thing I do with movies, I ALWAYS see them through to the end. I guess I always figure there could be something at the end to tie it all up, or ma
Vardan Partamyan
Jul 20, 2013 Vardan Partamyan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as part of my research of the landmark works in the conspiracy genre in preparation for my next novel. Reading the Illuminatus! trilogy you really get more than you bargained for in the form of an intertwined web of conspiracy theories, science fiction, phylosophy, mockery, humor, tragedy, psychedelic dreams and nightmares, scuba gear wearing talking dolphins and 5(!) John Dilingers. At times campy, at times pretentious - this is always a book worth reading. The going is sometim ...more
This book was important to me in high school, and I have fond memories of reading it, but I don't think as highly of it anymore. Although the RAW cult has done its admirable best to have this trilogy canonized as the masterpiece of paranoia, Pynchon got there first with The Crying of Lot 49 and especially with Gravity's Rainbow. Despite its immense humor and learning, the trilogy pales in comparison with Pynchon. Wilson and Shea strive for a "pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce," but the ...more
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Secret History: Robert Anton Wilson 1 24 May 02, 2012 02:06AM  
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Robert Joseph Shea was a novelist and journalist best known as co-author with Robert Anton Wilson of the science fantasy trilogy Illuminatus!. It became a cult success and was later turned into a marathon-length stage show put on at the British National Theatre and elsewhere. In 1986 it won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Shea went on to write several action novels based in exotic historical se ...more
More about Robert Shea...

Other Books in the Series

Illuminatus! (3 books)
  • The Eye in the Pyramid (Illuminatus 1)
  • The Golden Apple (Illuminatus 2)
  • Leviathan (Illuminatus 3)

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“The individual act of obedience is the cornerstone not only of the strength of authoritarian society but also of its weakness.” 13 likes
“And Spaceship Earth, that glorious and bloody circus, continued its four-billion-year-long spiral orbit about the Sun; the engineering, I must admit, was so exquisite that none of the passengers felt any motion at all. Those on the dark side of the ship mostly slept and voyaged into worlds of freedom and fantasy; those on the light side moved about the tasks appointed for them by their rulers, or idled waiting for the next order from above.” 7 likes
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